The Frau Koma series I wrote in 2013 was intended to explore questions over politics, genetics, corporate crime and scapegoats in the media campaign to associate autism with mass murder. In light of the current fanfare over yet another research claim of an association between autism and modern massacre— as well as another recent mass murder committed by an individual who reportedly suffered from autism—the series is unfortunately relevant again.
On Friday, May 23rd, 22 year old Elliot Rodger, son of Hunger Games assistant director Peter Rodger, became the latest poster child or “horned devil”—a killer with a reportedly identifiable trait, in this case possible Asperger’s—for the mass murderer profile. According to CNN, Rodger’s mother made a sworn statement in divorce documents that her son had been diagnosed with high functioning autism as a child.
The original Koma articles on mass murder, autism and drug side effects were an attempt to illustrate through the views of a range of independent psychopharmaceutical experts, reform psychiatrists and through independent research that, due to the current rate of roughly 1 in 50 boys (and rising) with the condition, autism is still statistically underrepresented among non-ideological mass murderers. But the series also considers that, due to the extremely high rate of drugging among the developmentally disabled with medications that carry black box warnings for violence and suicide—up to 90% according to reform psychiatrist and expert witness Dr. Peter Breggin, a drugging rate approximately 1000% higher than the already high American average—we could eventually see the prophesy of the autistic killer self-fulfilled through the “magic bullet” drugs meant to treat them. The conjectures made in recent reports on the Santa Barbara massacre appear to be no exception to the general pattern.
On the evening of May 23nd, Rodger stabbed and shot six people to death in a college town near Santa Barbara, drove his car into another and left six more hospitalized, two in critical condition. Several sources claimed that, according to family members, Rodger had seen psychiatrists for many years and had been on medication. In a video, Rodger explained that he’d refused to take Risperdal due to the side effects, though he didn’t indicate whether or not he took other prescriptions. Sudden withdrawal from certain drugs is associated with a steep increase in suicidal and homicidal reactions.
Rodger, like many of the modern random mass murderers, had no history of violent assault but, by all accounts, had recently become increasingly paranoid and withdrawn and had quit school. Members of a chat group the Rodger belonged to described Rodger’s violent hate speech towards women and his musings on releasing a virus that would kill off his male competitors. Shortly before the massacre, his family had attempted unsuccessfully to get an emergency commitment for him after learning of a Youtube video in which he described his rage at sexual rejection and social isolation. Rodger’s manner of evading police scrutiny during the welfare check—by convincing them that he was a “kind and wonderful human being”— does not jibe with an autism diagnosis but there’s no indication in reports that Rodger's diagnosis had been updated. In the video, Rodger vowed to take deadly revenge against those he saw as unfit to live for committing the “crime” of rejecting him. In his 141 page manifesto, Rodger describes his intended rampage as the “Day of Retribution,” himself as “divine” and unambiguously akin to the Second Coming who will rid humanity of the “impure” and “depraved.”
Rodger's demeanor in the video segment could be taken for a Sheldon Cooper send-up, but the combined effect of pompous delusions and his view of himself as a “living god” who will reduce his victims to “mountains of skulls and rivers of blood” is chilling. His rampage in Isla Vista left two young women and four young men dead. There was no indication from reports that he personally knew the victims, though he stated in the video that he intended to target a particular sorority house. He reportedly shot himself after the killing spree. Family members of both victims and the perpetrator called for stricter gun control in the wake of the crime.
In the recent study on mass murder and developmental disability, Neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in the development of serial killers and mass murderers, researchers postulate that an extremely diverse category of mass killers had/have autism. Essentially two things are looked at in the work: killing and autism. Killing how, why, how many (or any) and over what time period are simply a grab bag. The study calls for a raking over by experts to formally analyze methods and case definitions, but I’ll list a few of the obvious highlights:
The authors indicate the research focused only on subjects apprehended for murder after 1985, explaining that the cut-off point was chosen “because there has been a dramatic increase in the recognition of ASD” since this date. The date also precedes by a year the mass marketing of Prozac, the first SSRI antidepressant—a drug class most associated with school shootings, random mass murder and suicide. Researchers do not discuss whether there had been an actual dramatic increase in autism, do not note the expansion of the vaccination schedule which also occurred in 1987, nor the recent research of a connection between SSRI antidepressants and autism (discussed in Part 2 of the Koma series). Authors don’t comment on the fact that at least one subject was only an attempted murderer and killed no one, and that another conspired and planned a militant mass murder but did not commit the actual act. There may be more irregularities among other cases listed in the study’s tables.
The authors admit to using Google as a primary research tool: “The name of the killer was entered into the search engine ‘Google’ followed by ‘AND’ and each of the following search terms were explored separately: ‘brain’; ‘head injury’; ‘asperger’; ‘autis*’ and, in some cases, ‘murder’ if the name alone was failing to produce relevant sites. In these searches, numerous resources were examined in detail including court transcripts; newspaper articles and other online resources.”
The study’s authors mention Adam Lanza once in the introduction (apparently justifying the use of Lanza’s photo for media coverage). Lanza is not included in tables for some reason, though he’d already been mostly confirmed to have high functioning autism by family members. Also in the introduction, authors claim killers such as Norway’s Anders Breivik and James Holmes of the Aurora, Colorado massacre (both discussed in Part 2) had some form of autism spectrum disorder based on Daily Mail articles. What’s good for the goose… Daily Mail is the source on Elliot Rodger’s medication, though this source quotes a family member while the material on Holmes and Breivik involve no sources close to either. Researchers repeatedly cite the works of Professor Michael Fitzgerald, whose theory that Adolph Hitler had autism (discussed in Part 3) has been widely criticized.
Authors also cite Simon Baron-Cohen’s work claiming an association between “zero empathy killers” and autism based in part on the undeniably racist MAOA or “warrior gene” theory (also discussed in Part 3). The MAOA gene theory has zombied along for decades, mainly due to the fact that it supposedly implicates the role of “low serotonin” in violence—meaning that it has an automatic serotonergic drug marketing algorithm attached. But one of the problems with the theory—in addition to the fact that it blatantly implies that people with brown skin are “more violent,” and was used in the 1990’s as grounds for a prospective program to psychiatrically “vaccinate” certain racial groups against violence using medication— is that the role of serotonin in mental disorders has repeatedly been debunked as a drug industry PR myth.
In fact, other than the claim that over a quarter of the 239 “eligible killers” studied had “definite, highly suspected or possible/probable ASD,” the study breaks no new ground in presenting evidence that mass murder is associated with ASD. There are some references to head injuries and psychosocial factors among certain infamous or obscure perpetrators which are not novel, but what is notable and particularly irresponsible is the conflation of older-than-the-hills crimes such as serial murders, domestic violence killings and militant ideological acts of terrorism with the recent historical advent of non-ideological, random mass murder. The researchers thereby sloppily imply that a high percentage of terrorists could have “definite” autism and an even higher percentage have probable autism. The attempt to find a “terrorism gene” also isn’t new but there’s a level of flagrancy in this attempt that hits a new low.